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Daroff: Need ‘assessment of who stood with us and why, who didn’t and why’

The Conference of Presidents head was one of several speakers who talked to JNS during the ADL summit in New York.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at its "Never Is Now" conference, held in New York on March 6-7, 2024. Credit: ADL.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at its "Never Is Now" conference, held in New York on March 6-7, 2024. Credit: ADL.

Before Oct. 7, Deborah Lipstadt’s office employed five staffers. The U.S. State Department’s point woman on antisemitism told JNS at the Anti-Defamation League’s “Never Is Now” summit in New York this week that her office now consists of 20 staffers, to respond to dramatic increases in Jew-hatred.

“We go where we can, where we feel we can make a difference,” said the department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

Lipstadt has met with Pope Francis in the Vatican, with UNESCO leaders and high-ranking officials in France and with German, Canadian and Israeli officials in the months after Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel.

“I’m hoping that the cumulative effect is a positive one,” she said. “We’re not just traveling for the sake of traveling. If we feel we can reach the leadership of the country, if we can meet with educational leaders, if we feel we can call attention to the issue, suddenly now there are newspaper reports and media reports on this.”

Lipstadt, who spoke during the event’s opening session on Wednesday morning, told JNS that she has also met with national intelligence directors and national police heads in several European countries and with other government officials and corporate executives, including those who run online platforms.

“When you get in meetings with foreign ministers, deputy foreign ministers, interior ministers, their chiefs of staff, they’re telegraphing the message that this is something they take seriously,” Lipstadt said.

With the 300% increase in staff in her office, “people who carried three portfolios now have one and can do a deeper dive,” she told JNS. 

That includes focusing more closely on China, given the proliferation of Jew-hatred on Chinese-owned media and online platforms, she said.

Journalist Abigail Pogrebin (left) interviews Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, at the Anti-Defamation League’s “Never Is Now” conference, held in New York on March 6-7, 2024. Credit: ADL.

‘Things we thought we’d never see’

In-person and remote speakers at the ADL event included Israeli President Isaac Herzog; U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland; former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Letitia James and Matthew Platkin (New York and New Jersey attorney general respectively); Board of Deputies of British Jews leader Marie van der Zyl; Rabbi David Wolpe; Orthodox Union leader Rabbi Moshe Hauer; Hillel International leader Adam Lehman; and scholar and author Dara Horn.

Alex Ryvchin, co-chief executive officer of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, was part of a March 6 panel breakout session on “How global leaders are fighting antisemitism together.”

“We’re seeing things in Australia that we thought we’d never see,” Ryvchin told JNS.

He cited a 738% increase in antisemitic incidents in Australia since Oct. 7. “When you look beyond the incidents, you see how it’s affecting the everyday lives of Jewish families,” he said. 

“Kids being abused on the street, and their parents then questioning whether they should send their kids to Jewish school. Small-business owners being targeted for boycott, having to pack up and relocate and lose their livelihoods,” he added. “It’s affecting every facet of Jewish life in the country.”

Fearing a generation of Jewish children growing up scared to be Jewish, Ryvchin told JNS that the priority is “to give our young people the skills, the tools and the knowledge to stand up to the hatred they’re facing.”

“They’re experiencing for the first time what it means to be truly hated,” he said. “That’s a painful thing. We need to ensure that they can get through this time.”

Attendees of the Anti-Defamation League’s “Never Is Now” conference, held in New York on March 6- 7, 2024. Credit: ADL.

Erstwhile allies MIA

William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was also a panelist during the breakout session about how global leaders are responding to Jew-hatred. 

“Unfortunately, as we look to our left and as we look to our right, far too many of our erstwhile allies weren’t there and weren’t our friends,” Daroff told JNS. “I think there does need to be an assessment of who stood with us and why, and who didn’t stand with us and why they didn’t.”

He told JNS that it’s not yet time to assess where things went wrong with “partners” and “allies.” Current attention must be “on doing what we need to do to help the people of Israel during this immediate crisis,” he said.

It’s important for Jews to “proactively engage in a way that will try to bring about more Jewish unity and more Jewish solidarity,” he added. That includes avoiding social-media posts “that might be caustic—that would annoy 20% or 30% of Jews,” Daroff said. “Don’t post it. Don’t repost it. Seeking consensus should be a major goal of our community.”

Ryvchin also told JNS that he is distressed by the “silence of our friends” with whom we have “had long standing partnerships.”

Attendees of the Anti-Defamation League’s “Never Is Now” conference, held in New York on March 6-7, 2024. Credit: ADL.

“They haven’t really reached out in the way that we thought they would,” he said.

Although the Australian government isn’t naturally sympathetic to Israel, it has stood behind the Jewish community more, taking action on a recent case of “doxxing” of hundreds of Jewish academics and artists,” Ryvchin said. (“Doxxing” refers to publishing people’s private details, often including home addresses or cell-phone numbers.)

“The government, in response to a request by my organization, said that it would rush through legislation to address the issue,” Ryvchin said. “It shows the sort of relationship we have with the government, and the sort of support or understanding that we can count on.”

Lipstadt told JNS that she has heard that some Jewish unity has emerged from the dark times that Jews face. A New York Jewish leader told her about an unaffiliated man in his 20s who said that it’s a “great time to be Jewish in New York.” At his law firm and in his circle of friends, the man has found Jews seeking each other out, doing Friday-night dinners together and celebrating.

“We’re going to Jewish cultural events. We’re doing Jewish things,” Lipstadt said. “It’s a sad thing that it took a push into hatred and a terrible thing like Oct. 7 to make that happen.”

“In Hebrew, you would say chatzi nechamah, half a consolation, that it did happen.”

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